Dog dies after ingesting toxic algae

Dangerous waters: the Loch of Vaara, a popular fishing loch between Aith and Clousta, where an algal bloom caused the death of a dog on Monday.

SHETLAND’S vet service is warning dog owners to keep their pets from paddling in lochs after a dog died on Monday after ingesting toxic algae.

John Pumford-Green had to rush his dog Jet to Westside Vets after it went into the Loch of Vaara, a popular fishing loch near his Clousta home.


His owner said: “The speed of the toxic effect was frightening – collapse within 10 minutes. Stopped breathing within another 10 minutes. I never want to see that happen again.”

The vets said they administered all the available life saving drugs, but had to admit defeat after two hours.

On the surgery’s Facebook page, they said: “Please do not allow your dogs into any fresh water lochs just now, it is not worth the risk.”

After the incident Shetland Islands Council has put out a general alert for people to watch out for blue green algae and other algal blooms in all lochs, having already said the toxic substance is present in Spiggie Loch in the south mainland and Loch of Cliff in Unst.


Environmental watchdog SEPA checked Loch of Vaara the day after Jet died, but the results said the levels of algae were not dangerous.

However toxic algae can disperse quickly and the reform again, leading environmental health officials to warn dog, livestock and other animal owners to be on the alert.

The level of its toxicity can fluctuate; it can appear one day, be dispersed by the wind and mixing, and re-accumulate at any time.

Algal blooms appear with warmer weather and are unpredictable. While they kill animals, they can also make people very ill with effects including skin rashes, eye irritations, vomiting and diarrhoea, fever and pains in muscles and joints.

Blue green algae forms a scum on the surface that tends to look like paint when it comes ashore.